Let's Get "Lei'd"

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Last night's dinner in the Summit's alternate (and additional surcharge) dining room was a culinary and social delight. I reserved two tables of six, and we arrived to find two more tables of CruiseMates friends enjoying the experience of the Normandie.

Dinner in the Normandie is an event, not just a meal. When the staff realized that the passengers at four of their tables were friends, everyone settled in for some cross-table fun. As I got up to visit other tables, one of the waiters would come right over and replace my napkin--crumpled neatly on the table--with a new one. Thus the game began. I kept standing up and moving away from the table, and each time I returned to a new, freshly rolled napkin. We must have gone through a dozen napkins during dinner. I tried to capture the changing of the napkins on the camera, but it didn't happen. The staffers were just too fast and sneaky.

The dinner lasted more than three hours, but we had such a wonderful time, we didn't notice the minutes passing. Food and service in the Normandie were both superb--just as I had experienced on an earlier sailing in the Millennium's Olympic restaurant.

Friday morning we awoke in a partly cloudy (but hot) Kona, where I had booked yet another golf game at the Waikoloa Beach Resort. It's about a half-hour ride from the pier, but it has a very pretty layout. The "girls" used the resort facilities while we golfed.

After being absent for two nights, thanks to the shore-side Luau and then our evening in the Normandie, we returned to the dining room that night. Our service team, Ronald and Christian, seemed genuinely happy to have us back. They and the other staffers we've encountered strike me as a very happy crew. A friendly, relaxed atmosphere seems to prevail throughout the ship. (Frankly, more relaxed and sociable than I recall from my previous Celebrity cruises.) Personally, I prefer it this way.

I've enjoyed running into our CruiseMates group members as we move around the ship. There's been lots of stopping for conversation, or just friendly waves across a room, giving the ship a neighborhood feel.

Saturday morning we stopped in Hilo, where I had reserved a vehicle for a drive to Volcanoes National Park. However, it was raining when we were to head out, so we decided to pass on the road trip and just go into town for some shopping. We later talked to people who went ahead with their scheduled excursions, or helicopter tours, or bus trips, and despite the weather, everyone seemed to have a great time.

As the ship left Hilo, it seemed there was a collective sigh. Everyone was looking forward to the next five days at sea en route to Vancouver--ready to relax, party and have fun. On this night the ship seemed livelier. Maybe because for the first time since the cruise began, no one would have to wake up early, other than the staff.

To celebrate our first full day at sea, the CruiseMates gang got together after lunch for some socializing and a group photo shot, wearing our "Get Lei'd" T-shirts. I've never heard so many camera shutters clicking at the same time, to capture the moment. As the group members stood on the stairway in the Summit's atrium for the picture, they looked like a choir. I thought it would be shame not to imitate one, and the Mooseman Tabernacle Choir was born. We did a rousing rendition of the theme to Gilligan's Island. Needless to say, this attracted a bit of attention.

This was really the Summit's first taste of the CruiseMates "Let's Get Lei'd" group together in public. It appears Celebrity's image of reserved elegance may be put in some jeopardy over the next few days.

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